At this point in time Kevin Lowe appears to be the hockey equivalent of Bruce Pearson. And just like Pearson (played by DeNiro in the movie) I suspect the audience will go from disdain to teary-eyed by the time this is over.
Kevin Lowe’s reputation as a hockey player is in the history books. A terrific defender who played with passion and was a winner on all levels. His career stopped short of the Hall of Fame, but no one can really argue that he was one of the very best defenders in this team’s history.
After the SC run last spring, Lowe seemed to be on top of the world. He had traded for Chris Pronger and Mike Peca, then made some terrific moves at the deadline and then watched as the Oilers came within a heartbeat of the Stanley.
After the season come to find out that Pronger wanted out, and Peca would not return. Lowe’s dealing of Chris Pronger and the disastrous impact of subtracting one of the very best players in the game for two young and struggling talents and some draft picks was made worse by an inability to add a veteran defenseman at any time during the 12 months following (and I’m not counting Tjarnqvist, Hejda or Smid because we all know this team needed a veteran defender).
This summer has been a disaster save for the very nice Joni Pitkanen deal. That trade resets the blueline and gives Edmonton a chance to have a quality blueline in the fall (should they decide to sign Danny Markov, as an example).
Michael Nylander’s fiasco, the Vanek offer sheet, the invite to two writers to his home for confession (TELL me the Oilers PR department knew about that, just go ahead and tell me) all add up to a man under pressure and making some unusual decisions.
Now, the shots are beginning to come from other sources. In today’s Edmonton Journal, Georges Laraque grabs a kitchen knife and cuts deeply: “Guys are asking what’s going on in Edmonton in terms of management. You look at the Comrie saga, the Pronger saga. There’s drama. The NHL is a big family. We all know each other. When players have to make a choice, they don’t want to be a part of something that might turn into a drama. Mike Peca. Joffrey Lupul. It seems every year there is a drama that goes around the league. It’s like a soap opera. The unrestricted free agents, the 30-year olds, a lot of them want to avoid it.”
Larry Brooks in today’s New York Post: “If Lowe truly was interested in winning and was willing to take the personal out of it in order to achieve that objective, the GM would have gone straight after Henrik Lundqvist with a Group II offer sheet of $9 million per that would have forced the Rangers to dismantle their projected roster in order to match. But Lowe didn’t go after the best player on the market and he didn’t go after the most cap-vulnerable franchise in the NHL. He didn’t do that because of his longtime friendship with Glen Sather, that’s why he didn’t do it, and everyone knows it.”
Now there’s lots of stuff in there that is completely unfair. There was no Joffrey Lupul drama, in fact I suspect most of us are stunned he got value for Lupul after the season just past. If Lupul scores 35 goals this season, it would still be impossible to blame management for dealing him based on this past year.
Also, Brooks is completely wrong with regard to the Ranger goalie. The Oilers don’t need a goalie, which Brooks claims in a sweeping statement (“the Oilers are questionable in nets”) and adding a $9M goalie for this team is ridiculous.
None of it matters. The word is out. Kevin Lowe is fair game. I said in the spring he probably wouldn’t be renewed and find himself bumped upstairs or helping out in Phoenix.
Now I’m not so sure. Kevin Lowe might not last the summer.